By Debbie Adams
Members of the William Byrd High School Leo Club have gone above and beyond in community service this semester.
According to Leo Club sponsor Lisa Stover, “Where there’s a need, there’s a Leo. That’s how Lions Club International describes the purpose of Leo Clubs across America. Leo stands for ‘Leadership—Experience–Opportunity.’ Our local William Byrd High School Leo Club embodies this very definition by their active involvement in our local Vinton community and beyond.”
“An extension of the Vinton Breakfast Lions Club, the 61-member WBHS Leo Club has been busy. In October they served up pancakes at the Breakfast Lions Club Pancake Breakfast, which is a fundraiser for local Lions’ activities and scholarships. They made Halloween candy bags (150) for WBHS faculty and staff and participated in eyeglass recycling (collecting 46 pairs). Some of those eyeglasses were used at one of our Vinton-area elementary schools.” (Eyeglass recycling is an ongoing project for both Lions and Leos.)
“In November, the Leos partnered with the Community Christmas Store of the Roanoke Valley by collecting over 303 pounds of food for those in need,” Stover said. “The Leos ended up the month by helping the Lions clean up the historic Gladetown Cemetery in Vinton.”
The WBHS Leo Club and SCA sponsored Salvation Army Angels this December. Classrooms were given the opportunity to sponsor an Angel and 13 classrooms participated with WBHS students and teachers adopting 13 Angels.
And there’s more. “The Leo Club ended their first semester at school by serving customers at the Lions Club Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser during the Vinton Christmas Parade, wrapping gifts purchased by the Lions Club for local children, and acted as Santa’s helpers at William Byrd High School by giving Christmas cards and ornaments to all the faculty and staff members to show their appreciation,” Stover added.
The first Leo club was founded in 1957 by Jim Graver, the coach of the Abington High School, Pennsylvania, baseball team, who was an active member of the Glenside Lions Club. The club created the acronym Leadership, Equality, Opportunity for the word “Leo.” The word equality was later changed to experience.
In 1964 the Leo Club Program became a sponsored program of the Lions Clubs International. It grew beyond Pennsylvania and the United States of America. By 1967 the program had grown to over 200 clubs in 18 countries.
Leo clubs encourage youths to develop leadership qualities by participating in community service activities. They are dependent on a Lions club to sponsor and initiate them. Leos conduct various projects in the fields of health care, elders, children, disabled people, literacy and education, and self-development, and conduct fundraisers to support their projects.
“The Leos are such a blessing to spend time with here at school and in our community,” Stover noted. “They have hearts for service and make me hopeful for our future!”
This year’s Leo Club officers at William Byrd are Jenna Nicely (president), Maci Glass (vice-president), and Bailey Warden (secretary).
Vinton Breakfast Lion Chris McCarty says, “We probably have the best Leo Club in the state with approximately 70 members. In the last month alone, they have helped us at the cemetery cleanup, the spaghetti dinner, and the children’s Christmas present wrapping project. They have been a great asset to our club. They are an awesome group.”
WBHS Principal Tammy Newcomb says the Leos are one of the most active clubs at William Byrd.
“The students support almost every community service project the Lions Club does,” she said. Cemetery work, spaghetti dinners, recycling eyeglasses, pancake breakfast, gift wrapping–the Leos are seeing first-hand what makes a community thrive, and that is people who give of their time to help others.” Newcomb herself is a member of the Breakfast Lions Club, as is Lisa Stover.
The Vinton Breakfast Lions Club describe Lions International as “the world’s largest community service organization. Our mission locally is to support the needs of the Vinton community. Our service projects provide scholarships, improve community facilities, and help local people in need. We also have fun doing it!” Leos are learning that, too.